Harry Morgan, who portrayed Colonel Sherman Potter for eight seasons on M*A*S*H and an additional two on AfterMASH, passed away this morning at the age of 96. Although M*A*S*H defined his career, Morgan spent five decades acting, starting with bit parts in films in the early 1940s before transitioning to television in the mid-1950s. He co-starred in December Bride from 1954-1959; from 1960-1962 he starred in a spin-off of that series, Pete and Gladys. He had a recurring role on Kentucky Jones from 1964-1965. Then, from 1967-1970 he appeared opposite Jack Webb in a revival of Webb’s police drama, Dragnet.
Morgan followed up Dragnet with a recurring role in Hec Ramsey from 1972-1974. Then, on September 10th, 1974, he made a memorable guest appearance on the third season premiere of M*A*S*H. When McLean Stevenson (Colonel Blake) left the series at the end of that season, Morgan was brought in to replace him the following year as commanding officer of the 4077th. Morgan’s Colonel Potter was a very different CO, stricter in many ways than Blake, but fit in well with the other characters. For his role on M*A*S*H, Morgan was nominated for ten Emmy Awards (nine for acting and one for directing) and won once in 1980 for Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Comedy or Variety or Music Series. He also was nominated for a DGA Award in 1982.
Scriptwriter Ken Levine has posted a few memories of working with Harry Morgan. MSNBC.com has a list of seven great Colonel Potter moments. TV Land has put together the following brief video and has announced it will be airing special episodes of M*A*S*H to honor Harry Morgan this weekend:
In 2004, Morgan was interviewed for three-and-a-half hours for the Archive of American Television. Here’s an excerpt in which he discusses his famous role of Colonel Potter:
Here’s Alan Alda talking about Harry Morgan, from his own Archive of American Television interview: